Islamists Win Egyptian Elections, Women Marginalized
Final results for the first parliamentary elections in Egypt after Hosni Mubarak was deposed have been tabulated. The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) has won the largest number of seats for the lower house of Parliament, 47 percent, and the hardline Islamist Al-Nour party 29 percent. The liberal New Wafd party won about 7 percent of the seats, placing third, and the secular Egyptian Bloc coalition came in fourth. The Revolution Continues coalition, which is mainly comprised of youth groups who led the pro-democratic protests, received only 7 seats.
Women will be scarcely represented. Women have won only about 8 seats, fewer than 2 percent of Egypt’s Parliament. Dalia Abdel Hamid, the gender officer at the Egyptian Initiative for Human Rights, described the results as “disastrous.” An activist who ran for Parliament, Dalia Ziada, recalls protesting in Tahrir Square with Egyptians of different beliefs, backgrounds and genders and now feels “betrayal from our companions.”
Islamists Prevail in Elections
Egyptians had voted in in three phases over six weeks to elect 498 members of the People’s Assembly. The Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), the military government that has been governing Egypt since Mubarak’s fall, will be appointing ten seats. Voter turnout was 54 percent in the polls, says the election commission.
Saad al-Katatni, a leading Muslim Brotherhood official who had previously sat in Egypt’s parliament as an independent, has been selected as speaker.
The elections results make it clear that Islamist will “wield major influence over a new constitution,” which parliament is now charged to draft. However, it will ultimately be the president who chooses the government, says the BBC’s Jon Leyne ,”so the winners of this election do not automatically take office.” A new president will be elected in June under a timetable set by the SCAF.
Electoral Quotas For Women in Arab Countries
A number of Arab countries including Tunisia and Iraq have electoral quotas to improve the likelihood of women being elected into Parliament. Such quotas were introduced in Egypt in 1979 but have been viewed with suspicion; as NPR notes, under Mubarak, quotas were seen as a way to “stack the Parliament unfairly.” With Islamist parties having won a majority in Parliament, women are rightfully concerned about what will happen in the drafting of the new constitution, especially with the Salafists — who have called for separate educational curricula for boys and girls and for women to be covered from head to foot — holding so many seats.
Overall, Arab women have made notable gains in some areas: According to Foreign Policy, there are more women than men enolled in universities in Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Iran, Israel, Jordan and Kuwait; women comprise half the university students in Egypt. Women also hold a quarter of the judgeships in the region. Fertility rates are declining, from 4 to 2.5 children per woman between 1992 and 2004, and rates for maternal mortality have also fallen, declining 59 percent from 1990 to 2008.
Despite all these changes, women in Egypt face “pervasive” sexual harassment; NPR cites a YouTube video that show Nawara Negm, a female activist who was recently attacked after being publicly critical of the SCAF. The results of Egypt’s first democratic election mean that women in Egypt have a long road ahead of them to gain political and economic equality; that the fight for true equality and democracy in the country is far from over.
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Photo taken in February of 2011 in Tahrir Square by Al Jazeera English